A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Negligence

Hotel Vacancy. Just Don’t Drink the Water.

Cecil Hotel Crime Scene

By Jennifer Williams

The Cecil Hotel, which is located near Skid Row in Los Angeles, California, is described on its website as an “intimate 600-room boutique hotel” in the “beautiful vintage European-style.”

But the reviews create an entirely different image: dirty, bugs, shared bathrooms, soiled sheets, and (my personal favorite), there’s a “tranny in the lobby.”

If that’s not discouragement enough, a look into the hotel’s history paints an even bleaker picture.

In 1962, a 27-year-old guest of the hotel killed both herself and the pedestrian she landed on when she jumped from a window.  In 1964, a woman was found strangled in her room. Two serial killers, Richard Ramirez, aka the “Night Stalker,” and Jack Unterweger, are said to have been return guests there in the 1980s.

And on February 19, a maintenance worker, responding to complaints made by hotel guests about the water pressure, found the body of 21-year-old Elisa Lam in a water tank.

Ms. Lam was last seen at the hotel on January 31, so it’s possible that Ms. Lam was floating in the hotel’s water tank for over two weeks.  In any case, guests are reporting that they thought something was wrong during this period: the water would appear black as it came out of hotel faucets.  And, oh yes, it tasted “funny.”

The hotel is still open but is providing guests with bottled water and advising them that the tap water is to be used to flush the toilet only. Current guests are required to sign an agreement absolving the hotel from liability if they become ill. (You are staying at the hotel “at your own risk and peril,” the waiver says.). And guests who’d booked a room and want to cancel because of the water situation can’t get a refund.

Will the waiver hold up to legal scrutiny? Was the Cecil negligent? LASIS investigates.

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Tragedy at the Zoo

African Painted Dog

By LASIS Staff

LASIS recently ran a story about the Bronx Zoo visitor who jumped into a tiger’s enclosure, on purpose. We determined that he would not fare well if he chose to sue the zoo.

Now there’s a story out of Pittsburgh, about a two year old who fell into an area of African painted dogs.

A couple of things worth noting: There was a net for anyone who fell into an area near the exhibit, but the boy was so small, he bounced off of it and landed amongst the snapping wild dogs. He was killed instantly. On the other hand, the boy’s mother had reportedly “placed the boy on a wooden rail above the exhibit so he could get a better look at the animals” — clearly not a prudent thing to do.

Were there signs up saying not to sit or climb on the wooden rails? We’d expect so. Had people fallen there before? Should there have been more space between the net and the dogs?

We don’t know if there will be a lawsuit, or even a threat of one. For now, there’s only the tragedy of a little boy killed at an excursion to the zoo.

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To Be One With a Tiger

tiger

By Jennifer Williams

When it comes to getting up close and personal with wild animals –“Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh my!” — I’m with Dorothy and her friends. I’m petrified.

Of course, some tenacious individuals feel differently, and seek these animals out in their natural habitat to conduct research or capture breathtaking photos. But me, about the closest I want to get to these creatures is through metal bars or the like, inside the safety of a zoo.

A few weeks ago, 25-year-old David Villalobos managed to turn his visit to the Bronx Zoo into the kind of life threatening experience I have nightmares about. While riding on the Wild Asia Monorail, which gives zoo-goers a bird’s-eye view into many of the animals’ habitats, Mr. Villalobos leapt into the den of a tiger named Bachuta, out of desire, he later explained, “to be one with the tiger.” He suffered many injuries as a result of his 17-foot fall, and because Bachuta, apparently not appreciative of his den-crashing guest, mauled him.

Mr. Villalobos was charged with third-degree criminal trespass, a misdemeanor, and another lesser charge of trespass.

The media reported the story, which made the front pages of our local papers. But nobody but LASIS stopped to consider whether a man who willingly jumped into danger could hold the zoo liable for making his jump so easy.

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Tom, Mountain Dew Took Care of Jerry

Swimming Mouse

By Elias Demopoulos

What happens when Mickey Mouse has the urge to “Do the Dew?”  Well, let’s just say Disney fans wouldn’t like the outcome.

In November 2009, Ronald Ball sued PepsiCo and its bottling company after he drank bits of a mouse carcass from, alas, a not very refreshing can of Mountain Dew. The Illinoisan alleges that he sent what remained of the carcass to PepsiCo for testing, but the company destroyed the evidence and is now seeking to dismiss the legal action.

What is unusual about this case (aside from, well, a dead mouse inside a can of Mountain Dew) is PepsiCo’s defense: Mr. Ball’s can of soda had left the bottling company over 15 months earlier, and that if a mouse chose to take a swim in a sealed Mountain Dew can for that long a period, the citrus acid would have disintegrated the rodent’s organic tissue and turned it into a “jelly-like substance.”

Mmmm . . . good.  With the added protein, it could be marketed as an energy drink.

The story, as you’d imagine, disgusted the public, and many media outlets had a good laugh at the possible effects of the case on PepsiCo’s bottom line. Indeed, Bottom Line claimed that PepsiCo’s defense was a mistake, and in order “to win a small court battle . . . Mountain Dew [is] in peril of losing a much larger war.” Atlantic Wire agreed, describing PepsiCo’s defense as a “winning-the-battle-while-surrendering-the-war kind of strategy that hinges on the statement that Pepsi’s product is essentially a can of bright green/yellow battery acid.”

They’re wrong.   (more…)

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Victim of Hot Dog Throw at Ballpark Cries Foul

By Gregory Akselband

During one of his crowd-pleasing performances, Royals mascot Sluggerrr miscalculated a behind-the-back toss and launched a hotdog directly into the left eye of ballgame attendee John Coomer. Coomer’s vision is permanently impaired as a result, and in what you might call an attempt to enforce the eye-for-an-eye rule, he is now suing the Kansas City Royals Baseball Corporation in Missouri for negligence and battery.

Media coverage of the story did a fair job of stating the facts but failed to mention the relevant law and legal claims.  LASIS researched the legal niceties of the story, and learned that more often than not, injured ballpark attendees face an uphill battle when it comes to recovering for their injuries.

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